Treating Cancer with Specialized Chemotherapy Care
Franciscan Health chemotherapy treatment teams utilize an interdisciplinary approach, including cancer doctors, nurses trained in infusion therapy, pharmacists who work directly with medical staff, social service staff and dietitians to help coordinate home aspects of treatment.
Chemotherapy is the most common of all cancer treatments. A chemotherapy drug may be given alone or combined with other drugs or therapies to treat cancer directly, shrink tumors before surgery, or alleviate symptoms of a disease.
What happens before your first chemotherapy treatment?
Your lab work will be reviewed in advance of your scheduled appointment. Should we encounter any abnormal lab results, we will contact your oncologist immediately. Depending on your physician's recommendations, we may need to reschedule your appointment.
When you arrive, you will be introduced to our staff and taken on a guided tour of your infusion areas and their amenities. You will receive a thorough explanation of the prescribed medications scheduled to be used during your treatment.
For your first appointment, we recommend bringing a support person with you to act as a "second set of ears." You will be provided with printed information related to your specific chemotherapy and disease, including interventions for side effects and physical changes to expect during therapy.
Before each chemotherapy session you:
- Will be given the opportunity to ask any questions or voice any concerns regarding your chemotherapy or care
- Are required to sign a medical consent form detailing associated risks, side effects, reactions or interactions
- Will be given contact phone numbers for reaching a physician after-hours or on weekends
What happens during your therapy session?
At the beginning of your session a nurse will start an IV or access a port and begin your pre-medications (or "pre-meds"), if needed, to minimize potential side effects. Not all patients receive pre-meds. Once your pre-meds are complete your chemotherapy will begin. Your specific length of time for chemotherapy is dependent on your prescribed treatment and will be discussed during your teaching session.
Side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy medicines usually target cells that quickly divide. However, normal cells, including those found in the blood, hair, and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, also divide very quickly. That means chemotherapy can also damage or kill these healthy cells. When this occurs, side effects such as nausea, anemia, and hair loss can occur. Other side effects that are commonly experienced are fatigue, nerve pain, infection and constipation.
Side effects of chemotherapy depend on many things, including the type of cancer and specific drugs being used. Newer chemotherapy drugs that better target cancer cells may cause fewer side effects.
Side effects of chemotherapy can often be managed. The key to effectively managing side effects is open-communication between the patient and the cancer treatment team. Once side effects have been identified, then a plan of care will be determined for best treatment. Treatment may incorporate medications and/or referrals to other clinical services available.